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Norwich bypass plan could be shelved

PUBLISHED: 17:00 30 October 2010

Graham Plant who now sits on Norfolk County Council's powerful cabinet

Graham Plant who now sits on Norfolk County Council's powerful cabinet

Archant

Plans for a Norwich northern distributor road could have the brakes put on if the public indicates it should be scrapped as part of plans to save £155m, it has emerged.

Norfolk County Council is looking at massive cuts in staff and services as part of the cuts proposals which were unveiled by County Hall on Tuesday.

Those detailed plans do not make any mention of the road, which this week was placed on a list of 21 schemes eligible for a slice of £600m of government funding.

However, they do include the possible closure of some of the Norwich park-and-ride sites, and reducing the ‘core bus network’ with a shift towards more dial-a-ride schemes, and proposals to save £14m through a “strategic review” which could see closer working with Suffolk County Council.

The county council has so far spent more than £10m on drawing up a scheme for the road, which would stretch from the A47 at Postwick to Norwich International Airport (NIA).

Graham Plant, the new cabinet member for transport and travel at Norfolk County Council, said he was “neutral” on the northern distributor road (NDR) issue and suggested that the council would consider a U-turn as part of the “Big Conversation” if it was demanded by the public.

Asked if the NDR could be culled as part of the cuts, he said: “That’s all part of the Big Conversation, what we need to know is what are residents’ priorities. We have looked at all the arguments for and against the NDR and the Postwick Hub. But I am well aware there are people who that doesn’t affect at all living in the rural hinterland, who need a bus service.

“We have to look at the priorities. That’s the interesting part of the conversation, some people will say yes, some will say no. Some say if you have the NDR you’ve got room for growth in the bus infrastructure. There are arguments for and against and we understand these.

“What we need is for these things to be part of the conversation. I am taking a neutral stance on that. We have pushed and pushed for this for many years. We have reduced budgets; we are not in a position to look at major infrastructure unless we are being helped by central government. We thought we had the funding for it and it has been taken away,” Mr Plant added. “Nothing can be a sacred cow anymore. I can’t say we will put it on the backburner, but all these things are all in the melting pot.”

If the scheme is scrapped it would represent a massive departure in transport policy and would be the deathknell for the joint core strategy in its current form for thousands of homes and jobs in the greater Norwich area which all hinge on the road being built. But it is sure to delight campaigners who have long opposed the scheme and this week renewed calls to scrap it. It also comes as the planning inspector, who is due to begin a public inquiry into the strategy next month, questioned whether the four councils involved wanted to go ahead because of continuing uncertainties over funding.

Denise Carlo, from the Norwich and Norfolk Transport Action Group, welcomed the inclusion of the NDR in the Big Conversation, but said the proposals to slash subsidies for public transport were unacceptable.

Should the road be scrapped to protect other transport funding? Write to Evening News Letters at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@
archant.co.uk

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